Salvation Army Elevates Production Workflow for Path To The Cross

The Salvation Army rallies its troops from the westernmost 13 states each June for a large conference at the Pasadena Convention Center in California. Primarily, this event marks the ordination of new Salvation Army officers, or pastors, following an intensive two-year training period.  The officers subsequently receive their first appointments as commissioned officers of The Salvation Army, and head out to take up their appointed ministries.

However, the conference delivers an additional opportunity for the newly ordained and attendees alike.  Being our largest annual event, we are provided a rare opportunity to share in fellowship and creative corporate worship together in very large numbers.

My role in the Department of Multimedia Ministries is to provide AV support for various events and conferences that happen in the Western Territory of The Salvation Army.  This year, the June event included a living sermon called “Path of the Cross,” retelling the story of Jesus Christ’s journey to the cross through a series of dramatic vignettes, songs and messages.  The goal was to create a highly immersive experience, including attendee interaction with Jesus on his way to the cross – and reflecting on His sacrifice following these encounters.

The unique staging and production of Path of the Cross was significant to achieving this immersive worship experience.  The main stage was configured in the round, with five satellite stages positioned around the venue for the various dramatic and musical vignettes.  The audience was seated in the round to ensure they were literally surrounded by the live production elements.  It was our goal to wrap the audience in a 360-degree projection as part of the surround experience as well.  The creative director for the show opted for a series of beautiful landscape images of old Jerasulem to give the audience the feeling of actually being there.

Our initial plan involved a Spyder system for video playback, with projections delivered to a single piece of muslin wrapped around the outer truss.  However, we drastically altered the design upon reviewing the capabilities of Renewed Vision’s ProVideoPlayer2 software. Since the content was to focus on drama, song and dance – all set during Jesus Christ’s lifetime – we felt that the planned giant cyclorama would be too overbearing and modern.  This influenced the shift to muslin panels of varying shapes and sizes, as we were confident that PVP2 would make masking the video projections to these pieces quick and easy.

The projection design was based on three concentric circular trusses.  The outer truss measured 100 feet in diameter and more than 300 feet in circumference – by far the largest of the three, adorned with the different shapes and sizes of muslin.  Two smaller circular trusses were hung inside of the outer truss, with the middle one assigned to lighting and the small inner truss hung with projection.  A total of 12, 18K Barco video projectors were hung off of the center truss, each projecting to the outer truss where the square, rectangular and other oddly-shaped pieces of muslin were hung.  The seams between the projectors fell in between the gaps of the 25 uniquely shaped pieces of muslin, eliminating the need to edge-blend any of the projected images.

The elaborate staging and projection design was, however, built on a simple and easy-to-use infrastructure.  With a single MacPro at the core, four Matrox TripleHead2Go units were responsible for the distribution of the 12 video feeds—one to each projector.  Each TripleHead2Go unit combined three DVI output feeds onto a single display, resulting in 3840×720 resolutions.  This made the overall projection resolution 14,496×720 pixels.

Each TripleHead2Go unit was connected via Thunderbolt to the MacPro, with an additional Thunderbolt connection used for the control monitor.  With a single license of the PVP2 software, we were able to power all playback across these screens, greatly simplifying the overall workflow while retaining exceptional quality, consistency and operational reliability.

Because we also needed lyric support, we networked in a MacBookPro outfitted with Renewed Vision’s ProPresenter software.  This allowed us to bring lyrics onto the built-in text layer of PVP2, layering them onto the largest pieces of muslin, which measured 15 feet high and 25 feet across.

We configured the projectable area of each Barco projector to cover multiple pieces of muslin.  In most cases, there were three different strips hanging within each projectable area.  PVP2 enabled us to quickly set image masks to ensure we weren’t throwing the projected images to the back of the room and in between the muslin gaps.  Instead, PVP2 allowed us to cut out the gaps with mask points so that playback was focused solely on the pieces we targeted.  Once everything was tested and in place, it took us less than an hour to position all 25 pieces of muslin around 315 feet of circular truss image maps.

The overall effect was incredibly stunning, and completely captured the immersive experience our director sought. PVP2 performed incredibly well during the show, and I have no doubt this event will be remembered well by those in The Salvation Army for years to come.

While the technology performed exceptionally, there were also financial benefits in selecting PVP2 over competitive playback systems.  The Salvation Army is a nonprofit organization, with a focus on helping people who need support.  It’s often difficult to balance that with major technology expenses.  At $1,000, PVP2 is far more affordable than the $80,000 required just to get started with Spyder.  Additionally, we were able to purchase PVP2 for the same cost of a Spyder rental.  From a workflow standpoint, PVP2 allows us to do nearly everything that a Spyder system can do, at a lower cost, and with much easier operation.

Moving forward, our new video playback architecture opens many doors to try new things.  In the past, we’ve often felt handcuffed by the technology in terms of being unable to keep up with some of the visual elements seen in other live events due to financial limitations.  We are looking forward to using PVP2 to incorporate live video into projections for future events, and generally enhancing what we can accomplish based on the power and ease of use of PVP2.

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